James Joyce remarked of his country, "If Ireland is to become a new Ireland, she must first become European." Mr. Joyce, we meet yet again, but this time around I find myself no longer cursing the day of your birth. James let us forget and forgive, I did tape those pages back into Ulysses afterall.
One month in France. Time to leave. Never did I imagine this to be possible--to weekend (verb) in Ireland. By no accounts may I accredit here a spur of the moment adventure, this trip had been in the books since day one. The occasion: the birthday party of a dear friend--not just a friend, but that friend, the one you consider family, and (depending on your outlook) have either been blessed or lucked with friendship. Me: damn lucky. K's 21st birthday, In Galway, Ireland, the land of Pubs. A nice little escape from the hustle and bustle of the Paris city life--understatement. For a country only an hours flight north, Ireland could not be more different from Paris, nor could it be more homey, comforting, and familiar. Paris is exhausting for a foreigner: big, fast, French--its own world in which one is a pin prick attempting to navigate and blend. Ireland: Gray, tepid, small, messy hair, tawdry sweaters, and English.
Undoubtedly a statement to offend many an Irish--but I finally felt at home. Joyce said Ireland must first become European, I trust him now. Ireland is not European at all--and is worthy, I now admit, of being time-capsuled in eight hundred pages of stream of conscious.
The previous noted travel woes of this author would have any cognitive reader questioning her solo attempt at crossing a border via 5 different modes of transport. And right you are for questioning--wrong metro stop, wrong bus, missed exit on Luas...but the difference? I predicted these, scheduled them into the time table if you will. Once in Dublin I was to take a shuttle bus to Heuston train station, not surprising I found myself on the wrong bus. I informed the bus driver if I had actually boarded the right bus, the cosmos would have torn apart. I scheduled this in: I had 5 hours in Dublin to roam in the footsteps of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, so the above the ground tram car the driver took me to was more than what I could have hoped for, until i missed my stop distracted by a brawl between the conductor and a ticket-less youth. Unphased--walk to the station from the next stop. Dublin is brilliant. My four hours walking along the quay of the Liffey River, switchbacking the myriad bridges, the Guinness factory, pubs, Ireland's national museum, pubs, people, the James Joyce House where the story The Dead (in Dubliners) took place, and more pubs. Though brief, Dublin was breathtaking, a preview for my next visit and a n inspiration to finally attempt a second round Ulysses, for the bastard did say, "The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works." Teatime Joyce. Teatime.
Dublin and Glaway are on opposite coasts of the country latitudinally, therefore I may claim that I crossed the nation of Ireland by train. What lays in between the country's two largest cities: grass. Fields upon fields of austere cornea-burning green pastures spattered by herds of grazing sheep. Irish sweaters are scarves are not cliche, for there absolutely are more resident sheep than people. The sheer beauty of endless fields, small farmhouses, dotty stone fences, and overcast skies left me with an esoteric nostalgia for home, family, and friends. Arrival in picturesque Galway was one for the films: K and J were waiting for me on the platform, waving and beaming like an old married couple. Stations and airports are notorious abodes for tears, hugs, and laughs either commencing or ending a separation.
Dinner was already simmering on the stove; a chicken curry, rice, and homemade naan bread (K is an exceptional chef and baker, we have very similar interests). After dinner: Irish Pub, my first Irish Pub, and therefore my first Guinness in an Irish Pub. Make that first sips of Guinness, for as an acquired taste, it is not one I have 'acquired' yet.
Galway lies on the sea, a welcome sight for this Seattle born. The salty air, swift breeze, seagulls, and humid air were yet more bolsters for that ol' nostalgia. Peaceful, happy, and friendly is the definition of Galway with its winding streets, packed shopping allies, Guinness, Guinness, and Guinness, beached boats, and 24-hour super store centers. Not, a city. No, not a city, but rather a home.K's birthday commenced with (my standard) two hour breakfast. In Ireland: porridge, fruit, and two teapots of liquid love. English television is a perk, though the television hours were spent on Father Ted, a beloved BBC program of mine I feared I would never again find, though there it was, in neat DVD format...was I indeed meant for Ireland? Presents from France: wine, scarf, chocolates, and yes, a baguette. All things French minus the beret. Presents in tow we headed to Salt Hill, a sandy point where one can gaze out to sea while the rocky Atlantic waves crash into the ancient stone walls below. Evening was passed in bowls of potato soup, cider, chocolate cake